Commander Legends Prerelease Primer

Posted in Feature on November 9, 2020

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

It's time for a set like none other—and a new way of playing one of the most popular formats in Magic.

When I first had the idea for a Commander Draft format nearly six years ago, I wasn't sure exactly where it would go. To finally see it revealed, hear everyone talk about it, and soon be able to play it means so much to me. And whether you're a veteran of Commander or Draft, or if you're new to all of this, I want to make sure you have a great time.

There's no better way to kick everything off than with a Prerelease, where you can get your hands on all the new cards. So, let's dive into all that today!

If you prefer watching to reading, I made a video covering much of this you can watch here:

Otherwise, keep on reading. Let's get started!

A Legendary Beginning

Prereleases have always been my favorite Magic events of the year.

Prereleases are events where it's your first chance to try out the new set—and to me, the heart and soul of the Prerelease experience is the energy of getting those cards and playing with them. And even if you're just doing that at home, you'll still be doing it with so many other people around the world as part of the global experience and conversation. Thanks to the internet, we're all connected!

The Prerelease of a set is great because the set is totally new, the footing is fairly equal as everybody plays with the set for the very first time, and you just get to relax and have fun exploring the new cards. It's a lot of fun for old and new players alike!

If you're a Sealed Deck veteran, you may want to skip ahead to the next section, where I talk about what you can expect for Commander Legends. But if you're new to the world of Sealed Deck, or are maybe just looking for a few extra pointers, read on!

All right. So, let's go over perhaps the most important part: finding product for your Prerelease! After all, you can't very well play if you don't know where to get the supplies you need.

Well, you'll need to get in touch with a store. If you don't already have a local shop you frequent, be sure to check out the store locator to find one near you! That store may even offer preregistration. Prereleases are some of the most popular events we put on, so be sure to check and see if the store preregisters. Be sure to plan ahead.

While traditionally Prereleases are run as an in-store event, because of the COVID-19 virus, as a special exception, players can pick up packs and take them home! (And for those who are used to them, I should note: unlike a "main set" Prerelease, Commander Legends Prereleases just use traditional booster packs—not a special Prerelease pack.) In fact, we recommend it. In different areas of the world, different rules and restrictions may apply to what can be open—so please take appropriate precautions, be aware of government-level requests, and do only what you feel comfortable with.

Okay now, let's see. You have a store selected, and you've taken a look at all the awesome cards in the Commander Legends Card Image Gallery.

You're all set! Now it's time to actually open up some of those cards!

Commanding Your Cards

Alright, so you have your packs. What now?

Well, first, you may have received a special Sengir, the Dark Baron Prerelease card. Check it out!

Sengir, the Dark Baron

Because everyone is receiving the same promo, this can't be added into your deck unlike a normal Prerelease card—so you can set it aside for now. But isn't that Pete Venters art just so awesome?!

Sealed Commander Legends uses six packs per player, and Draft uses three per player. (If you're going to draft—please do so safely, of course—remember: you take two cards per pick when you're drafting in Commander Legends!) I'm going to be covering how to build a Sealed deck here, so if you're playing Sealed, crack those open!

So . . . what now?

It's time to build your deck, of course!

Sealed Deck is a little different from normal deck building. You get to build a deck using only the cards in front of you, plus as many basic lands as you'd like.

And Commander Legends is a little different from normal Sealed, which is 40 cards. Here you're building a 60-card Commander deck!

If you don't know what Commander is, that's okay! It's a great time to learn. You can watch my video on this here and learn in under 5 minutes, or go check out the Commander format page for more info.

Keep in mind that the color identity rule for Commander games applies here, so your deck will need to match the colors of your Commander (including any mana symbols on the card, like in an activated ability). You can't put a green card in a deck helmed by Kwain, for example.

Kwain, Itinerant Meddler

The first thing you normally want to do in Sealed is figure out which colors you'll be playing, and so in Commander Legends, a big piece of this will be to see what legends you opened up. They will really influence your decisions! If you opened one (or two, with partner—which we'll get to in a bit) you really liked, that can quickly help you home in on which colors you'll want to play.

Beyond that, some things that may draw you into specific colors are:

  • A really strong rare you're excited about
  • Plenty of "removal" cards that can deal with your opponent's creatures
  • A lot of playable cards in that color
  • A good "mana curve" in that color—meaning lots of creatures of different costs
  • A theme you see in that color that you like
  • A lot of creatures with forms of "evasion," like flying, which are hard to block

Now, if you really want to play a color and don't have the legend of the right color for it, there's a fallback option: The Prismatic Piper! This shouldn't come up often, but you can always use The Prismatic Piper—even if you didn't open one. Think of it as a "basic legend." (And feel free to check out this video for more on why The Prismatic Piper exists.)

It's also worth noting that, like regular Limited, you can play any number of copies of a card you open in your Commander deck. (This is different than regular Commander.)

Now, in Commander Legends, you're going to want to play about 25 lands in your 60-card deck. So, how do you take everything you have and figure out which 35 you're going to want to put in your deck?

Here's one process that may help!

First, lay your creatures out in mana-cost order. This helps you see what creatures you're going to potentially be able to cast at each part of the game. (Don't lay your noncreatures out at this point unless they're cards you are planning to play as soon as you have that much mana—for example, you will generally cast a Slith Ascendant on turn three, whereas Vow of Duty isn't usually a turn-three play.)

A good "mana curve" is crucial to a successful Sealed deck. You don't want to have a ton of cards at any single spot in the curve. It's important for you to have a good mix so you can play your cheap spells in the early game and your expensive spells in the late game.

Additionally, keep in mind that you can always cast your Commander. If Malcolm, Keen-eyed Navigator is one of your Commanders, then that means you always have an available turn-three play.

All that said: in Commander, games go longer, and you have 40 life. So focusing more (but not all!) of your cards toward the end game is worth keeping in mind . . . and moreover, you can probably put your favorite cards that you opened up into your deck and be just fine.

Magic from a Distance

Depending on where in the world you are, playing Magic in a store may be a problem right now due to COVID-19. So, if you get product to bring home and aren't able to play in a store, what should you do?

Well, of course there's Magic Online, which allows you to play the set from a safe distance. But one other thing you could try is playing over a phone or a webcam!

Growing up, me and a friend would play Magic over phone calls. As you can imagine, that was a hassle: trying to remember all the cards was a nightmare, and it would be even harder for a Prerelease!

But now we live in a much different age—an age where webcams are readily available, everywhere from laptops to cell phones!

Depending on the setup you and your friends have, there are many ways to do this. Check out my article on playing Magic over Webcam for all kinds of tips on setting it up. Spelltable.com in particular is a great website set up for Commander play, with built-in voice chat and four windows for your four-player Commander game. But if you want to play with a different number of players, something like Discord or Google hangouts can also work well.

Legendary Fun

Starting with Throne of Eldraine, we debuted our new "Booster Fun" initiative, putting alternate, tricked-out versions of specific cards into packs. This continues into Commander Legends as well!

There's a special frame and foil treatment called foil etched that can appear on the legendary creatures in the set. They look like this:

Prossh

But really, they have to be seen to get the full effect because the new foil treatment is so cool. Here's a video of what one of them looks like in person!

Wait, Prossh? Indeed! In addition to the legends in the set, we've reprinted 32 popular legends from the past exclusively in this treatment. Get your Maelstrom Wanderer, Najeela, Thrassios, and 29 of their friends here!

Additionally, the planeswalkers in the set can also be opened in a special borderless version:

Jeska, Thrice RebornTevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

You can find all of these in regular Draft Booster packs!

Additionally, the extended-art cards continue in the Collector Boosters! They'll look like this:

Undergrowth StadiumVampiric Tutor

But it's not just rares and mythic rares getting the extended-art treatment this time around! In addition to the rare or mythic rare extended-art card in a Collector Booster, you'll also get an extended-art common or uncommon! These have been handpicked as cards from this set and the associated two Commander Legends Commander decks, which are of particular note for Commander.

MulldrifterCommand Tower

If you're curious on anything else about these cards and the variations, check out my article about collecting Commander Legends.

Commander Legends Goodies

While you're at your store to pick up the packs to play your Prerelease experience, you can also buy other things—like booster boxes! Be sure to call ahead to preorder one, and while supplies last, you should be able to pick one up. And when you do, you'll also snag one of these:

Buy-a-Box Mana Confluence

Mana Confluence is a great mana-fixing Commander card and relevant in many other formats.

Commander Legends also has two Commander decks! Be sure to talk with your store about these as well.

CMR Commander Decks

Become Legendary

This set has been a long time in the making, and I really can't wait for you all to give it a try. It's a really fun and fresh form of Commander!

And above all else: have fun. Commander is a format all about being social and having big, awesome plays. May you get to make plenty of them! Many thanks to the Commander Rules Committee, not only for their help on this set, but also for developing the great format of Commander for us in the first place.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or even by sending an email to BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com. I'd be happy to hear from you!

I hope you've enjoyed Commander Legends previews, and whenever you play with the set: have fun!

Gavin
Email: BeyondBasicsMagic@gmail.com
Instagram: GavinVerhey
TikTok: @GavinVerhey
Tumblr: GavInsight
Twitter: @GavinVerhey
YouTube: Good Morning Magic

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